Virtual ThrillerFest XVI • June 28 – July 10, 2021 • Now Online!

Best First Sentence Contest

To enter the 2021 Best First sentence contest please email your submissions to You may only submit one entry. To qualify to enter you must be an ITW member or registered for ThrillerFest XVI (2021). Winners will be announced on Wednesday, July 7, 2021 on social media. All winners will be notified shortly thereafter via email.

Thanks for your entry and good luck!

Below you’ll find the winners of the Best First Sentence Contest from ThrillerFest XV (2020).

Best First Sentence 2020 Judges Choices:

William Bernhardt:
If there is a special place in hell for particularly heinous acts, I will be going there, because I just bounced a blind man off my front bumper.
–Ellen Butler

Grant Blackwood:
“Ten thousand bodies lie under the New Orleans sidewalks,” the tour guide told his group in a sepulchral tone, as he did every night below my Bourbon Street balcony.
–Ellen Byron

Karen Dionne:
I should have known when I fished that Pink Floyd T-shirt out of the creek that it belonged to that waitress, the one who disappeared.
–Dolores Kimball

Robert Dugoni:
She swore she’d never turn into her PI father…but that was before she ran over the body.
–Lida Sideris

Mark Greaney:
Dorie told the truth on the installment plan.
–Jeffrey B. Burton

Steven James:
Without seeing that bit of tangerine cloth, Laura Graves would have never waded out thigh deep into the Brazos River to pull the body up on the bank and call 911 for the second time that day.
–Lisanne Davidson

Donald Maass:
The boy was next in line to be shot.
–Andrew Kaplan

Hank Phillippi Ryan:
I wrote my first obituary when I was twelve.
–Kristine Camp